When the Prime Minister, Theresa May, came to power, amongst other things, she committed to upgrading the country’s mental health provisions.  In January 2017, she asked Lord Dennis Stevenson, a long-time campaigner for greater understanding of mental-health matters, and Paul Farmer, the CEO of Mind, to prepare a mental health report, providing recommendations for the public and private sectors alike.  The report was released on 26 October 2017 and a link to the report can be found here.

The two experienced mental health experts who produced the report found that there are many more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before.  They discovered that there are around 300,000 people who have a long-term mental health problem and who have lost their jobs as a result of their ill health.  Most interestingly, the authors noted that there is a much higher rate of people losing their jobs with mental illnesses when compared to physical illnesses.  The authors also discovered that around 15% of people in work have an existing mental health condition. These statistics tally with our experience of our personal injury and employment law clients.

mental health

The authors estimate that the cost to employers annually of mental health issues is somewhere between £33 billion and £42 billion.  The authors made the bold and very interesting conclusion that half of that cost comes from presenteeism – this is when people who are at work are a lot less productive as a result of their mental-health problems.  The authors also estimate that the cost to the tax payer is somewhere between £24 billion and £27 billion.  These costs include the benefits provided to people with mental health problems and the declining tax revenue and general cost to the NHS (though if someone develops a condition such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because of an accident, and the accident claim is successful, then the government should be able to reclaim NHS and benefit costs from the negligent party’s insurers).

With the current zeitgeist in government being the drive towards increasing productivity in the workplace, the two experienced authors take the view that there is a somewhat easy way to improve national productivity, and that is by improving people’s mental health.

The authors of the report hope that they can reduce by 100,000 the number of people off work with mental-health problems.

The authors’ vision is that, in ten years’ time, there will have been some significant changes in how mental-health issues are dealt with in the workplace.  The authors hope that the following changes are made:

  1. Employees in all types of employment have good work which contributes to their mental-health improvement.
  2. That everyone in society is much more au fait with mental-health matters.
  3. That organisations of any size are better versed in how to deal with mental-health issues.
  4. If steps 1, 2 and 3 are met, that there will be a dramatic reduction in the proportion of people with long-term mental-health problems who leave work as a result of their ill-health.

The authors hope that, in due course, it becomes much easier to have an open dialogue at work about mental-health matters and that employees are provided with a healthy work/life balance.  The authors also hope that employers begin to monitor their employees’ mental health and general wellbeing.  This is, we think, a similar duty to that found under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations whereby employers need to monitor their employees’ health if they are routinely working with dangerous substances.

The authors take the view that the public sector, which employs around 5.4 million people, ought to lead the way.  The authors correctly conclude that the role of Government is key.  In particular, the authors hope that the Government makes it much more flexible for employees to obtain Statutory Sick Pay in the event of a mental-health problem, and that employers support a voluntary phased return to work.

The report’s recommendations for employers

The authors have put together six recommendations for employers, which are:

  1. Produce and implement a “mental health at work” plan.
  2. Develop mental-health awareness among employees.
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available.
  4. Provide employees with good working conditions.
  5. Promote effective people management.
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

Most boldly, the authors recommend that Government amends the Companies Act to encourage employers to report on mental health in the workplace in a way akin to gender pay-gap reporting.

Given that we specialise at Truth Legal in workplace issues, such as personal injury claims, discrimination claims, constructive and unfair dismissal cases, we would estimate that a large proportion of the clients whom we meet and represent have a mental-health matter caused by their work.  We applaud the Prime Minister in the initiative, however, the numerous recommendations made by the two esteemed authors require significant Governmental investment, rather than the drive to austerity which has been ongoing for many years. 

Sadly, this detailed report does not seem to have received sufficient media spotlight, which is scandalous given the millions of people impacted by mental health problems caused through their work.  

Many employers and employees are unaware that a mental-health condition may render an employee disabled by virtue of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. All disabled employees have a right not to be discriminated against at work due to their disability. Disability discrimination law is particularly complex, with many employers failing to provide reasonable adjustments. The failure to provide reasonable adjustments to an employee with a mental-health condition may lead to a disability discrimination claim, and perhaps a constructive dismissal situation.

If have developed a mental health condition due to a road traffic accident or accident at work, etc, or if you are disabled and your employer has failed to provide reasonable adjustments, then you may have a viable claim which ought to be reviewed by a specialist workplace solicitor. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. If you live near York, Harrogate, Manchester and London we should be able to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

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Catherine Reynolds
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